At about this time last year, we were in Kenya and spent a couple of days at the Amboseli game park. Our guides were clearly concerned that the amount of snow on the summit of Kilimanjaro had been getting less and less over the last few years, as melting snow plays such a crucial part in supplying the swamps below with enough water to keep the animals alive.
I was therefore astonished to learn from an article in the Daily Telegraph how quickly disaster had struck and how little wildlife we would have seen had we been there in the same week this year as we were there last year -when, almost wherever you looked, there were scores of wildebeests, zebra, elephants and buffalo, not to mention quite a few lions and giraffes.
But, according to the article in The Telegraph:
'it only took last year's deadly drought to apply the coup de grace... When the rains finally did fall in December they came too late to save the game and two thirds of Amboseli's wildlife population died including all but two percent of the park's6,000 wildebeest. The rest perished, along with most of its zebras, 75 per cent of its buffaloes and every elephant under two years old' (my emphases).
I find it shocking and depressing to think that 98% of the wildebeest and so many of the other animals we saw a year ago are now dead - and that, if the photograph above had been taken this February, it would have been a completely blank landscape with no animals in it at all.
Just as shocking and depressing are the effects of all this on the peoples of East Africa. The drought has not only killed off their own domestic livestock and plunged them into a large scale food crisis, but it's also threatening to kill off economic development in countries that rely so heavily on tourism - that in turn depends on there being plenty of animals for tourists to see.
Even more shocking and depressing is the fact that the climate change deniers keep on telling us that global warming is nothing to worry about. But then Nero didn't think that Rome going up in smoke was anything to worry about either.